Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, left, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, center, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, right, listen during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in this July 27, 2020, file photo. Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Whether there is any scientific basis for it or not, people make judgments about a witness not just based on what they say, but how they say it,” defense attorney Darrick Banda said in response to the state’s social distancing plan for jury trials. “Face coverings, I believe, would interfere with this time-honored process.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The White House and Democrats are far apart on virus aid talks, and there is danger that no deal will be made. The sides ended Thursday with no deal in sight, according to The Associated Press, with Republicans and Democrats striking pessimistic notes and signaling disagreement on issues including aid to state and local governments and the revival of enhanced unemployment benefits that were funded by the federal government at $600 a week.

House Democrats passed a massive $3 trillion plan in May that was seen as a nonstarter. But they have some leverage with polls showing the party in a good position en route to the November election. Senate Republicans responded only last week with a plan of their own with their caucus divided about evenly between those who want a deal and those skeptical that another massive stimulus is necessary.

Vulnerable Sen. Susan Collins of Maine falls in the former camp and has indicated state and local aid as one of her top priorities in the talks as states like Maine begin to consider drastic spending cuts to plug shortfalls expected because of the slowdown. She is backing several efforts to deliver aid and continue a lower level of unemployment bonuses. The talks will be a test of her legislative might and leaders’ sense of urgency to get a deal done.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine lawmakers endorse sovereignty bid in historic win for tribes, but obstacles remain,” Cailtin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Tribes won a historic victory on Thursday when a Maine legislative panel endorsed a sweeping sovereignty effort, but it could be a hollow one with lawmakers squabbling over the terms of a return to Augusta and looming special-interest opposition.”

— “Low census response rate threatens tens of millions in funding for Maine,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The federal government has the ability to estimate Maine’s population without the census, but the official count guides congressional redistricting and some federal funding. The 2010 census resulted in a slight undercount here. Advocates and lawmakers are worried it will be worse this year, which could cost Maine tens of millions of dollars each year for the next decade.”

The federal funding is the main issue with the undercount, but the swing 2nd Congressional District is also likely to get even bigger. Maine lost an estimated $140 million in federal funding when it was undercounted in the 2010 census by an estimated 8,300 people. The 2020 count could be off by even more, due to especially low response rates in rural counties including Franklin and Piscataquis amid challenges caused by the coronavirus. 

Congressional and legislative redistricting will come after the federal government releases counts to the states in 2021. Due to trends in the northern population half of Maine and the looming undercount, it’s hard not to foresee the swing 2nd District cutting deeper into Kennebec County, the only one split between districts now to odd effect with Augusta and Waterville in the 1st District but the southerly Gardiner in the 2nd District.

— “New protections help low-income renters in Portland, but some say they don’t go far enough,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “The ordinance prohibits landlords from charging fees exceeding $30 to prospective tenants during the housing crisis, but stops short of outright banning the practice.”

Gideon outlines climate plan mostly matching state efforts

The candidate’s plan is full of mainstream Democratic thought on climate that matches steps taken to date by state leaders. House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, the nominee to take on Collins in the 2020 election, announced an eight-point climate plan on Friday around campaign swings to South Portland and East Boothbay. It mostly consists of things we’ve seen.

Gideon easily fended off two more primary challengers in July without backing the Green New Deal, a litmus test for national progressives, telling the Bangor Daily News in September that she backed national extensions of policies put into place by Maine Democrats while saying in a stump speech that she backs “bold, immediate action” on climate.

The eight-point plan would enshrine a national plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, matching a plan backed by many Democratic senators and tracking with Gov. Janet Mills’ vow to make Maine carbon-neutral by 2045. Gideon also said she would back the positions of Attorney General Aaron Frey, who has joined Democratic lawsuits seeking increased environmental protections, and wants the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate accords.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...